Sunday, June 17, 2012

It’s not just that the conclusions are ideological; it’s that the questions are

Out there another blogstorm has broken, but one where the thunder is noisy and the lightening illuminating.  Mark Regnerus published a study in Social Science Research,

how the young-adult children of a parent who has had a same-sex romantic relationship fare on 40 different social, emotional, and relational outcome variables when compared with six other family-of-origin types. The results reveal numerous, consistent differences, especially between the children of women who have had a lesbian relationship and those with still-married (heterosexual) biological parents.
Hidden in there a bit is what the study really looked at, which is outcomes of stable heterosexual couples compared with outcomes where one of the partners took up with someone of the same sex.   If a sexual relationship blows up a marriage, that the kids suffer, is not exactly news or unexpected. The novelty of the study is that the bomb was an adulterous same sex relationship rather than the usual opposite sex partner at the office.  Offhand, any bunny would agree, that after a marriage breaks up, why yes, the kids tend to suffer no matter what the reason, and there is lots and lots of evidence for the truth of that assertion. 

Lurie Essig at the Chronicle (beloved of John Massey) has a comment
Okay those of you who have had Survey Design 101, what is wrong with that comparison? That’s right–he’s comparing oranges to apple slices. One is “still married biological parents” and one is “had a relationship.” One is an ongoing family structure; the other might have been a two-week fling.  As Thalia Zepatos, director of public engagement at the marriage equality group Freedom to Marry, pointed out:
It would be like comparing two parent Catholic families and divorced Mormon parents and coming out with a conclusion that Catholics are better parents than Mormons.
What Regnerus did is EXACTLY what the tobacco companies did, what the anti-evolution folks do, what those in denial about climate change do.  Crow bar a study into the literature that answers the wrong question badly and then use their PR (trained journalists all) to blow it out in the media supporting denial.   Sometimes they take something that was well done, but answered a different question and spin it like a top.  The Churnalists don't give a damn.  It's news.

Readers of Rabett Run can find any number of links on this current blogstorm, but the real issue is the Churnalism that is bootstrapping this into the Overton window.  It is the typical denialist housebreak scenario.  

In this one Will Saletan is playing Judith Curry and Slate WUWT.  It's a little complicated, but originally, Slate, Tony Watts like, provided a platform for Regnerus, they wanted the eyeballs.  However, some editor sensed that the study and the post were rather flawed.  For balance Saletan put up a post on Slate that pointed out the problems with Regnerus' provocation.  Actually it tore it to shreds.  Slate put links at the top of Regnerus' and Saletan's posts pointing to the other one.

OK, blogstorm breaks, Overton window is jimmied, and now comes the interesting Churnalism, or perhaps wrt climate science, Curryism.  Saletan has ANOTHER post up
 Wow. Regnerus’ paper certainly has flaws. But before we all go get our stones, pitchforks, and kerosene, may I suggest an alternative? Trust science. Don’t bury this study. Embrace it. The evidence Regnerus collected can help all of us rethink our ideas about sexuality and marriage. It can enlighten the right as well as the left. In fact, it’s already doing that.
E.J. Graff at the Prospect was among those who said that Slate should be ashamed of publishing such propagandistic tripe.  
Saletan knows better. I don’t know about the LGBT groups, but I wasn’t taking aim at Slate for the underlying research. What Slate should be ashamed of is publishing Regnerus’s sleight-of-hand interpretation of his results. Saletan’s first-take analysis was correct: the study did not measure what Regnerus said it measured.
 but Slate publishing it got it into play.
Regnerus is smart enough to know this. He did one thing while purporting to do another. He compared fidelity with adultery. He compared stability with instability. Then, in Slate, he said he was comparing different-sex parenting with same-sex parenting—conflating the effect of family explosion with the effect of parental sexual orientation. Saletan spotted that crap right away, and called it out in detail....

Yes, as Saletan writes, “There’s nothing evil about the data set.” True. But there’s something evil about the propagandistic distortion of that data set. Most Americans aren’t nerds like us who look at the underlying questionnaire and drill down to expose the flaws. They’re ordinary people who are following what’s important in their own lives. By the time they hear this news, what they’ll hear is some TV anchor saying, briefly, “A new controversy emerged today about gay parents.
aka the games that Keith Kloor and the rest of the Pielkesphere play.  So no Keith, Eli doesn't want Judy and Tony to shut their blogs up, he wants them to slam their window on tripe (c comments).


Brian said...

Much like John Christy saying his study allegedly showing no decline in California Sierra snowpack contradicted scientists who claimed a decline. The claim is for a future decline, not a decline in the present.

More problems when authors go way beyond what's in their papers, here for political reasons.

Anonymous said...

Besides the fact that the paper is deeply flawed and that the conclusions being spread around by its author and politically like minds are not supported by the data, another side to this that I feel needs to be emphasized more is what Ilana Yurkiewicz said at Scientific American: Regnerus’ study had major flaws, and that fact should be known. But his findings shouldn’t have mattered that much, anyway. I for one don’t like the idea using group outcomes data to determine basic rights. I don’t need to reject his paper to affirm that I support same-sex couples having children, and neither should you.
Really, the most useful thing about this study is to see how it's utilized by the parties involved.


Anonymous said...

Also, besides the infuriatingly annoying comment window, Blogger doesn't render quote tags properly. "Regnerus' study .... and neither should you." is Yurkiewicz.

-WheelsOC again

EliRabett said...

RR had the Christy fast shuffle:

"Mike Dettinger, a climatologist and research hydrologist at the Scripps Institute of the U.S. Geological Survey, said Christy is picking and choosing data while misleading people about what climate change scientists are actually saying."


Of course, it's completely different if the editors call before you can reach for your crow bar.

Rattus Norvegicus said...

Gawd Eli, why did you send me to that cesspool that is KK's? One commentator didn't seem to understand the difference between theology and science. Another didn't understand the difference science and emotional nonsense. Some didn't seem to understand that when un (or is that anti)scientific nonsense is propogated that the speaker should be met with a fusillade of truth. They all seem to think that you are a fascist.

EliRabett said...

Eli could use some backup bunnies. Not that he is exactly one of nature's nobelbunnies. Bart he ain't

badger badger badger said...

I'm slightly surprised when anybody sensible bothers posting at KK's. Mostly it's BBD wrestling pigs (is he on the dole or something?) or willard being willard, bless him.

Anonymous said...

Dr. Lumpus Spookytooth

yes great news. Now anybody who opposes fake gay marriage is probably a denier of the science of tobacco and a creationist.

what a shocking surprise that this is what you guys came up with.

What are the odds that I can find a study that easily demonstrates that gay parents try to force their kids to be gay? ho ho, I bet I can find that one real quick Eli!

ho ho! Oh to be a young student again and thrash poor Eli in his own setting!

EliRabett said...

They do seem to roll that way.

ligne said...

what is "fake gay marriage"?